It is a political tactic so well worn that there's an episode of The West Wing named after it: Take Out the Trash Day.

The concept is that the White House chooses to release bad news late on Friday afternoon when journalists are knocking off for the weekend and when citizens are switching off for a relaxing weekend.

The hope is that the dumping the bad news at this time will mean the administration can avoid scrutiny.

President Donald Trump is being accused of taking that concept to a new level when his press office took out three particularly smelly pieces of trash last Friday afternoon when Texas was bracing for disaster as Hurricane Harvey approached the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Harvey approaches the coast of Texas on Friday. Photro / AP
Hurricane Harvey approaches the coast of Texas on Friday. Photro / AP

This is the news that Trump may have hoped you missed.

1. Presidential pardon for controversial sherriff

The President had hinted at pardoning Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in the weeks leading up to last Friday, but he chose to officially confirm it on the afternoon that coverage of Hurricane Harvey was reaching saturation point.

The timing wasn't lost on The Atlantic, which wrote that the President had used his "showman's talent to [divert] attention from a story he would prefer that most Americans not learn about".

"President Trump timed this pardon for what a compulsive TV viewer would regard as maximum stealth, for a time when the imperatives of viewership demand non-stop coverage of the dangers and drama of a great storm," it wrote on Saturday.

"Then will come the aftermath: the heart-rending stories of loss; the harrowing stories of survivorship.

"Then the storm will pass, the untelegenic work of rebuilding will commence, and it will be next week, and soon after that back to school - and time for the president to generate new dramas."

Arpaio, a longtime supporter of Trump, was convicted last month of disobeying a 2011 court order to stop his controversial immigration raids, which were viewed as racial profiling of Hispanics.

Trump's pardon broke with tradition in that it was not recommended by the Justice Department and came before Arpaio, 85, had even been sentenced.


Pardons are usually bestowed years after the guilty party has been released from jail.

Dubbed the toughest sheriff in American, Joe Arpaio. Photo / AP
Dubbed the toughest sheriff in American, Joe Arpaio. Photo / AP

Regardless, the pardon is well within Mr Trump's constitutional rights.

"Arpaio's life and career, which began at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the military after the outbreak of the Korean War, exemplify selfless public service," the White House said in a statement on Friday.

The statement made no reference to his deliberate defiance of a court order.

When asked about the timing of the news, Trump said he wanted to ensure it received attention.

"A lot of people think it was the right thing to do and actually in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally," Trump said in a press conference in Washington on Monday afternoon.

Trump also took the opportunity to point out controversial pardons that had been made by his predecessors, including:

• Marc Rich, who made illegal oil deals with Iran during a hostage crisis, pardoned by Bill Clinton
• Susan Rosenberg, a militant left-winger jailed on weapons and explosives charges, pardoned by Bill Clinton
• Carlos Vignali, a drug trafficker, pardoned by Bill Clinton
• Chelsea Manning, a military leaker, pardoned by Barack Obama

When the news was announced: 8pm Friday.

2. Controversial adviser booted

Another significant piece of news that was buried at the weekend was the departure of Mr Trump's divisive national security aide Sebastian Gorka.

Gorka's exit is the latest in a long line of staff shake-ups within the White House.

His removal appears to have been a product of a staff audit conducted by new chief of staff John Kelly, which also saw right-wing firebrand Steve Bannon kicked off the payroll.

Gorka, a former editor of conservative news website Breitbart, held the title of deputy assistant to the president, but his exact role within the White House was not clearly defined.

Former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka. Photo / Getty Images
Former deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka. Photo / Getty Images

He held hard-line views on immigration and terrorism, being a major supporter of Trump's Muslim travel ban.

The White House made it clear that Gorka was pushed out in a statement late on Friday.

"Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House," an unnamed White House official said.

The Trump administration has endured a number of high-profile exits from its senior staff in recent months - also including press secretary Sean Spicer, short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Despite these upheavals, Trump has bristled at media coverage that suggests there is chaos within the White House.

When the news was announced: 9.28pm Friday.

3. Advancement of the transgender military ban

Trump surprised many - not least the chiefs of the US military - when he announced by Twitter in July that transgender people would be banned from the military.

Trump followed through on his social media decree on Friday when he sent a memo to defence secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke to formalise his decision.

In the memo, he officially denied transgender people from joining the military and halted the use of government resources to fund sex-reassignment surgery, in a move that reversed a policy implemented by his predecessor Barack Obama.

"In my judgment, the previous administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments' longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year's policy change would not have those negative effects," Trump wrote.

The President left it in the hands of Mattis to determine what to do with transgender people currently serving in the military.

The transgender ban has been widely criticised by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) groups, as well as human rights advocates.

When the news was announced: 6.25pm Friday.